Is your Above & Beyond backfiring?

Have you ever heard or said something like this?

“Let’s face it. There are some residents’ families that just aren’t ever going to be happy.

It’s our job to make them as happy as we can.

And if that means going above and beyond what we normally do, then so be it.”

Wait. What???

Yes, it’s true. There will be people out there that, no matter what happens, aren’t going to be happy. (Every single call centre on the planet knows this!)

Yes, there will be times when a family is disappointed about not getting an update, or laundry going missing, or their calls go to voicemail and a myriad of other issues that can arise.

The family/resident/care team is a relationship dynamic that can be complicated; it’s imperative, intimate, and emotional.

  • It’s imperative because it usually arises out of a health crisis/emergency, and there are no other viable options to keep their loved one safe and cared for.
  • It’s intimate because staff give residents personal physical and emotional care. They really get to know their residents and families. (I can personally attest to the awkward feeling of staff having TMI – too much information.)
  • It’s emotional because this is usually a forced decision due to a health crisis, which comes with the baggage of guilt, grief, relief, and more guilt.

Within this relationship you want to provide the best care, and help your families feel comfortable about the decision they’ve made. But here’s the thing. If you put the responsibility of making other people happy on your shoulders, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

And it becomes double trouble when you craft a plan, out of fear or desperation, to go above and beyond, to overcompensate and recover from someone else’s unhappiness or disappointment.

That’s when I hear “Well, this family is never happy. So let’s pull out all stops and go above and beyond and THAT will make them happy.”

Then, when above and beyond doesn’t magically transform the family to happy, the staff feel frustrated and resentful, and now they’re stuck with delivering THAT above and beyond and trying to find a new level of above and beyond that just aren’t sustainable.

They’ve boxed themselves into a corner and created a precedent that’s hard to undo.

It becomes an exhausting exercise in futility. And I don’t want any of you to have to go through that.

The decision to accommodate, overcompensate, go above and beyond is typically made as a reaction to the family’s negative emotions (which I get – who wants to be on the receiving end of another person’s unravelling.)

Before you execute the above and beyond to make them happy strategy, try these steps first:

Step back from the situation, take a few deep breaths, and answer these questions (either by yourself, with a team member or colleague)

  • What’s really happening here? Be curious, as if you’re sitting in the audience and observing, versus being on the stage where all the drama is happening. Write it out as a story, or in bullet points, so you can see it on paper and read it out loud. This can give you some distance from the emotion and provide a clearer perspective.
  • What’s the gap between your family’s expectations and what’s occurring? Disappointment happens when expectations and reality don’t line up, and it’s those unmet expectations, left unaddressed that can cause a world of hurt.
  • If the family’s expectations are realistic and manageable, what do you need to do to meet them?
  • If the family’s expectations aren’t realistic and manageable, how do you understand their perspective and adjust their expectations? (If they can’t be adjusted, that’s a whole other conversation I’m happy to have with you.)

Going above and beyond is a wonderful experience to create when it’s doable, manageable and doesn’t set you and your team up for unrealistic expectations (and drama) on an ongoing basis.

You can be intentional, relational and generous with your above and beyond approach.

Just don’t let it be your default setting with unhappy families.


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